CHR: Senate should continue probe on extrajudicial killings

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) believes there is no reason for the Senate to terminate its inquiry into alleged extrajudicial killings related to the administration's war on drugs.

"There is no other credible option on their part but to not prematurely terminate the Senate investigation," CHR Commissioner Roberto Cadiz said amid proposals to end the probe.

Senators Manny Pacquiao and Panfilo Lacson had moved for the termination of the inquiry, citing doubts over witness and self-confessed former member of the Davao Death Squad Edgar Matobato.

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano also backs the move.

Senator Richard Gordon, Chair of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, however, merely suspended the hearing.

But Human Rights Commissioner Roberto Cadiz believes the inquiry has yet to serve its purpose, considering that some witnesses have yet to testify.

"Our own witnesses have been brought before the Senate, ready to testify on two occasions, the last one being last night and they were not able to and we would want our witnesses to give their testimonies before the committee," Cadiz explained.

He said if Gordon's main objective is to ferret out the truth about these alleged summary killings, he should avoid making conclusions about certain witnesses — even before they get the chance to finish their testimony.

Walkout, suspension

The inquiry was suspended indefinitely Monday night following a heated exchange between senators. Several senators had argued over witness Edgar Matobato who left the Senate premises before he could be called in for questioning.

Senators Richard Gordon and Ping Lacson said Matobato was allowed to leave the hearing without permission from the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV told the committee, Matobato was taken from the premises for security reasons.

Later on, Gordon and other senators accused Senator Leila De Lima of concealing the fact that Matobato was accused in a kidnapping case by the NBI. That case had been dismissed.

De Lima refuted the accusation, saying Matobato himself revealed the kidnapping case to the Senate committee during his testimony on September 15--so it was impossible for her to conceal this. She demanded an apology from Senators--Gordon in particular--for accusing her of "material concealment".

After a heated exchange — and no apology forthcoming — De Lima walked out.

Read: De Lima walks out of killings probe

Later, Senators Manny Pacquiao and Ping Lacson moved to terminate the hearing, saying Matobato was an unreliable witness, and had made a fool of the Senate.

Gordon merely suspended the hearing, however, and said a caucus by the committee on Tuesday will determine whether or not to continue the Senate investigation.

"Who's running away from the hearing, we ask? Is it De Lima, Matobato or is it Senator Gordon and the other senators who belong to the majority?" Cadiz said.

Cadiz also defended Matobato's decision to leave the Senate building last night and said this was probably due to security reasons.

He added the CHR's witnesses had to leave as well, after hours of waiting for their turn to testify.

Monday's hearing went on for more than twelve hours, from 9 a.m. to around 10:45 p.m.